Sweet Tooth

June 22, 2010

I’ll try to keep this short. There isn’t a whole lot to say other than to throw out a glowing recommendation.

Vertigo Comics put out fabulous fucking comic books. Bottom line. I’ve been reading titles from that imprint since I was 14-years-old and it is a joy to see their quality output continue with new creators delivering new ideas. Recently word came to me, as it does*, about a new creator-owned title from Vertigo called Sweet Tooth. I accepted the advice, never doubting the source for a second, and the word was good.

Sweet Tooth is written and drawn by Canadian Jeff Lemire, a relative newcomer to comics, having started in 2008 with the trilogy of graphic novels Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse (known collectively as The Essex County Trilogy) which were published by Top Shelf Productions and received nominations for Eisner and Harvey awards. The first issue of the monthly title Sweet Tooth was published in September 2009 and the collected trade paperback of the first five issues was released in May this year.

Set in a post-apocalyptic America, the story concerns Gus, a young boy who happens to have the features and antlers of a deer. Gus, it transpires, is one of a number of human/animal hybrids that have appeared around the time of a mysterious pandemic that has destroyed human civilization and at the outset of the tale he lives in an isolated cabin in the deep forest of Nebraska. Eventually, Gus leaves the woods when he encounters the dangerous, imposing figure known as Jeppard, a hard man of unclear motives who promises to lead Gus to “the Preserve”, an apparent sanctuary for hybrids where they can be safe from the myriad dangers of the ruined world. However, Gus’ isolated upbringing results in him being largely unprepared for the dark and hostile reality that awaits him in the land he must traverse with his dubious new companion.

Sweet Tooth is instantly gripping. The haunting, poignant dialogue of the central child character draws the reader in effortlessly and the accompanying artwork from Lemire has a melancholy quality that is equally captivating. It’s impossible not to care for the innocent Gus as he makes his treacherous journey through the wasteland of a destroyed America. At once unusual, and yet with strangely familiar themes, Lemire has combined his love of post-apocalyptic tales with a spin on ideas gleaned from H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and with characterisation borrowing from famous comic book figures like The Punisher (Jeppard). This is a very intriguing, fascinating new book that has me firmly along for the ride and I recommend you all climb aboard.

Deerly departed

(*This comic is yet another awesome gem that I have to credit my e-buddy James with turning me on to. This same guy told me about The Wire, Breaking Bad, Scalped…and probably a bunch of other cool stuff I don’t presently recall. Other than sending him personalized gift certificates promising multiple hand-jobs, should we ever meet in person, I really haven’t reciprocated as I would like to. James, my man, thanks again.)



  1. This review intrigues me because I recently read Essex County. Have you had a chance to read that comic? If so, how does Sweet Tooth compare?
    The reason I ask is, Essex County was ‘Canadain literature’ to the core. Perhaps an international audience wouldn’t see it as such, so I won’t ask how ‘Canadian’ Sweet Tooth is… but still I can’t imagine Vertigo publishing something like Essex County. What do you think attracted that publisher to Lemire?
    (I should NOTE: I think of vertigo as the publisher of Alan Moore, Scalped, Sandman, Y:Last Man, etc — cutting edge comics, but not really interested in ‘slice of life’ story telling. Perhaps that view is just too narrow.)

  2. I haven’t read the Essex County stuff (yet) but it sounds good, lots of great reviews.

    Jeff Lemire did a graphic novel for Vertigo called Nobody (updated spin on H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man) before he started on Sweet Tooth. I didn’t mention that above because I was being a little lazy. I think he wrote Nobody and then brought it to Vertigo for them. They liked it, now he’s got gigs writing mainstream superhero stuff as well as Sweet Tooth.

  3. I’ll be surprised if you like Essex County. i’ll send it to you if you’re curious. I’m liking the ‘graphica’ reviews btw.

    Scalped 6 came out last month. Have you made arrangements to get that yet?

  4. Yeah, I have the latest Scalped sitting there. I’m still very much into it.

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